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Cost of packed lunch nearly doubles during Cost of Living crisis

8th September 2023

  • Packed lunch costs up by 95% since April 2021; increase by 15% since September 2022

  • 42% price difference at supermarkets for packed lunch essentials

  • Two in five parents save less money to provide lunch, clothes and activities for kids

8th September 2023: Spiralling inflation has almost doubled the cost of a child’s packed lunch during the Cost of Living crisis, rising from £1.40 to £2.73 a day since April 2021, a 95% increase.1 The majority of parents (94%) say they have noticed the hike.

Packed lunch prices have risen by 15% in the last school year; Starling Bank first conducted its Packed Lunch Price Index in September 2022 by auditing the cost of food items that typically make up a child’s packed lunch in the UK’s biggest supermarkets over time.2

A 42% price difference was noted between the cheapest and most expensive supermarket for everyday packed lunch items, including bread, ham, cheese, tomatoes, biscuits, apples, bananas, yoghurt and crisps. The supermarket offering the lowest combined price for these items is Lidl, where the average packed lunch costs £2.13, while Morrisons tops the chart at £3.02. 

Parents are doing all they can to shield their children from rising food costs. Two thirds (66%) say providing a packed lunch is important for their child this coming school year, with extra curricular activities (51%), new clothes (50%) and family activities (46%) also on the list of parents’ spending priorities. 

To provide these things for their children, parents are reducing their own spending by cutting down on treats like takeaways (64%) and holidays (40%). Parents’ savings are taking a hit too, with 39% putting less aside each month, while 40% are cutting back on their heating use. 

More than three quarters of parents (76%) are also spending less on other non-essentials for their children in order to manage rising costs, with a third (32%) cancelling TV subscriptions, 31% not buying new toys, and 20% no longer hosting birthday parties. 

Rachel Kerrone, family finance expert at Starling Bank said: “From school uniform to stationery, parents have a lot to buy during back to school season - let alone paying for their child’s daily expenses like lunch, travel and after school clubs. Not all parents have the time to shop around for the best deals, but banks such as Starling have lots of simple and quick money management tools that can help parents better understand where their money is going and how much they can save.” 

To help families have fun on a budget this autumn, Starling Bank offers a free National Trust day-pass for all customer referrals, and new and existing Starling Kite customers can claim a free kids meal at National Trust places.

Table 1: Audit versus ONS data


Table 2: 2022 versus 2023 audit


Table 3: 2023 supermarket comparison


Notes to Editors

Starling Bank conducted an audit of the UK’s biggest UK supermarkets (Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Lidl and Aldi) between 14th - 22nd August 2023. The audit compared the cost of popular children's lunch box items to the ONS cost of everyday items from April 2021, to identify cost differences. To find the average cost of the supermarket items, Starling Bank found the same size products, or as close to this size as possible, as cited by the ONS and took an average cost from the five least expensive products, by category (e.g. bread) before finding the overall average of the percentage increase of each product. The findings were compared against Starling’s previous analysis, taken between 30th August 2022 - 7th September 2022.

Additional research, commissioned by Starling Bank, was conducted by Censuswide, who surveyed 1,001 19+ UK parents with a child/children in primary school who send their children to school with a packed lunch on some or all days of the week between 18.08.2023 - 21.08.2023. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

  1. The total cost of nine full size items that are typically found in a children’s lunch box (including a loaf of bread, a packet of tomatoes, a block of cheese, a packet of ham, a multipack of crisps, a packet of biscuits, a tub of yoghurt, a bag of apples and a bunch of bananas) comes to £13.65, an increase of £6.66 since April 2021. These items would suffice for one week’s worth of school lunch boxes. £13.65/5 = £2.73

  2. Morrisons, Asda, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Aldi and Lidl

About Starling Bank

Starling Bank is an award-winning, fully-licensed and regulated bank built to give people a fairer, smarter and more human alternative to the banks of the past. It offers personal, business, joint, euro and dollar current accounts alongside a children’s card. Starling also provides a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) proposition through its subsidiary Engine, using the proprietary technology platform that it uses to power its own bank. Headquartered in London, the bank has offices in Cardiff, Dublin, Manchester and Southampton.

Contact details

Grace Wilson, Senior PR Manager
+44 7506 402635

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